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The Top Essential Tools of the Professional Winemaker – 2016 Update

I originally did this post back in 2010 and decided it would be fun to see if the same tools were needed.  I feel sometimes that I get caught up in working and doing my job that I forget there are rather interesting things that I absolutely can not make wine without (outside of the obvious grapes or barrels) that most of the non-winemaking public would scratch their head over.  Here is my updated 2016 version!

7) Frequent Flier Programs

Now that I am flying a TON more than I used to, I am pretty attached to my Mileage Plus account with United.  All the checked bag fees waived and time saved going through security is very helpful and helps me get on to my next destination be it China, California, or back home to New York.

6) Even More Calendars!

I know what you’re thinking.  In today’s era of technology why would anyone still need a paper calendar?  I used to have two, plus my Outlook calendar.  Now that I have direct reports, I have three.  Two full year calendars (one for me and one for the entire department including Kosher holidays!). Then there is the Monthly calendar showing holidays, major meetings, or short day trips.  I use my Outlook calendar for the daily stuff, meetings, tastings, etc.  Call my OCD but its how my life works.

5) Colored Highlighters

I have different 8 colored highlighters.  They are great when you have your list together and are coming up with a blending plan.  You can show similar colors going together.  You can highlight different analysis that may need attention.  You can make different colors show up on your abovementioned calendars to denote days out of office and why.  There are so many uses for colored highlighters in the winery!  This can also be transferred over to colored dry erase markers for a tank board to show wines going through ML, filtered wines, fermentations, and different vintages.  We’re very visual beings and being able to visually organize your life makes issues easier to spot and fix.

4) Clipboards

Clipboards are still important but have become far less important than in previous years.  I’m down to one on a regular basis but this one is rarely out of my hand and contains my daily to do list plus notes from meetings and things to follow up on.   They are great for carrying around the cellar to write on.

3) Whiteboards

How did I get along without whiteboards?  I have three and they are amazing.  I have two small ones to track things that need to be done and one large one to track things I have completed from the list on the two smaller ones plus all incoming bulk shipments into the winery.  Long story short, I love them and am not letting them go!

2) Excel Spreadsheets

I can safely say that I am completely hooked on spreadsheets.  My Christmas list is now in Excel format, not to mention all of my wine blends.  They are super convenient because you can plug in theoretical blends and analysis and get an idea of where your wine will end up analytically.  This doesn’t take the place of trial blends put together on a counter top but it sure does help when you’re trying to tweak the analysis numbers in a wine a bit.  You can also sort lot lists by just about anything that one may need to sort for which is so much faster than trying to make a new list by hand all the time.

1) Wineglass

Still number one! One cannot make wine without using a wineglass.  We carry them around in the cellar, in the lab, have them sitting on our desks.  You really can’t make any winemaking decision without a wineglass.  The wine MUST be looked at, smelled, tasted, and considered fully before any of the above tools can assist you going forward.  If you catch a winemaker out at dinner and their water glass is even close to the shape of a wine glass they will undoubtedly subconsciously swirl it and sniff at some point.  We’re just that used to having one around us at all times.

To my winemaking colleagues, did I miss anything?  Feel free to add to the list!

Thankgiving Wine Pairing…Backwards

Wine is traditionally served in a particular order. For Thanksgiving this year, however, I wanted to mix things up a bit and challenge myself to come up with a menu that would pair with wines served opposite of when they would usually be served. 


Blanched Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto with crushed walnuts

Wine: Cru Classe Sauternes. I particularly like Chateau Coutet in Barsac for this. 

Aged Gouda with Honey and Maricopa Almonds

Wine: Sercial Maderia. I’m a huge fan of the Rare Wine Company’s offerings. 

1st Course

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts, and Applewood Smoked Bacon with Red wine Vinegarette

Wine: Fransiscan Magnificant. Oh yeah. Strong flavors requires a strong wine. In the absence of this wine a really good Merlot will do. 

2nd Course

Sous Vide Salmon over Julienne Green Beans and fresh Microgreens. 

Wine: Dry Rose. I would lean towards the Finger Lakes myself with this one but understanding that those aren’t available everywhere I would secondly look for the south of France or Loire Valley Roses. 

Main Course

Herb Roasted Turkey with Cramberry and Apple stuffing. Sweet potato gratin with baking spices. Roasted Brussel Sprouts with crispy Panchetta. 

Wine: Killian’s Russian River Chardonnay. This personal offering from my former boss is perfect for this type of meal. Rich and delicious with great acid. 


Pumpkin Pie with homemade Whipped Cream. Creamy Brie with berries. 

Wine: Champagne or Riesling? Or Both! Both definitely. 

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy this time with your loved ones!